Ah, yes. So, David Bowie chooses — not to this point, at least — to give an interview (maybe, justifiably so, he’s just sick of talking about himself after 40-odd years in the industry… what’s left to be said?) but he does, however, grace us with a list of 42 words — literally, a list of 42 words — in response to Rick Moody’s request for a work flow diagram of The Next Day.
This holds personal significance to me, personally, because I credit David Bowie (personally) for expanding my vocabulary in my prepubescent years. So, how could I pass up this opportunity to comment on this recent addition to my reservoir of words? Bless you, David, you just keep giving and giving and…
Effigies – “They fashion paper sculptures of them…” — a line from The Next Day. The last time I saw a real life effigy was, perhaps, 10 years ago, at a rally against a political leader. They did a good job, of creating the effigy at least; he did eventually resign in disgrace and was never actually burned in effigy, although he is well-disliked among certain segments of the population.
Indulgences – Sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll. ‘Nuff said. Except that refrain from Never Get Old… “Never gonna be enough money! Never gonna be enough sex! Never gonna be enough drugs!” Except that, yeah… sometimes it is, well, enough. Enough.
Anarchist – Are you, David? Really?
Violence – Bad. Violence is bad. Never justified.
Chthonic – Ah, the Greeks. This is my fantasy: Bowie finds a cohort and engages in modern-day Socratic dialogues, discussing things like effigies and spirits of the underworld. That could be the next album. I volunteer. David, you be Socrates. I’ll be Plato. Or the other way around. It’s been so long since I’ve read them, I can’t remember who was the rock star and who was the obsessed fan.
Intimidation – Recognize it, and ignore it. People will stop you from doing many things in life through the use of intimidation. It’s just that: intimidation. It’s based out of nothing but fear.
Vampyric – Also bad. Don’t prey on others. It’s not nice.
Pantheon – When I visited Rome in 1997, I found the Pantheon to be a holy place. I had my friend take many pictures of me in the bath of natural light that falls out of the ceiling. I can still see myself, in my mind, in those pictures. A beautiful place. And, oh yeah — this also means a collection of gods or idols… is there a theme here? Is Bowie obsessed with the Greeks or Rome or celebrity or idolatry or does he have a lot of time on his hands? I remember my Greek literature prof. She looked like a nun. Probably was, in her spare time.
Succubus – Hmm. Hmm!
Hostage – Hostage of the mind, the physical — are we held hostage by our desires, our obligations, our intentions or by social conformity? We are all constrained by what we are told is acceptable, good and right. I suppose. Hostages to prevailing thought. Or something.
Transference – Never been in therapy, but I hear this makes you bond with your therapist. In not an advisable way.
Identity – Overrated. Connected to the ego; it reminds me of a long-passed colleague who told me once we’re all part of one, global spiritual force. A collective spiritual identity, nothing more. Maybe she was right. She always brought her dog to work. I loved her for that.
Mauer – Berlin, in the time of the wall? “You never knew that, that I could do that…” A commentator noted recently that the subway stop Bowie mentions in Where Are We Now? (Subway, train? I don’t know) would have been impossible to traverse when he was living in Berlin. Walls, physical walls, metaphoric walls, walls in German, mur, pared… the words that aren’t necessarily in the Berlitz guide.
Interface – This reminds me of when all computers were made up of neon tracks. Neon tracks, on a black background. I also have the theme to “Mr. Roboto” running through my head. Interfacing, is that what we’re doing? Interfacing?
Flitting – How I would like to move through life — brisk and light; but with impact. A passing thought, flitting through one’s mind… maybe one that Bowie grasped when he conceived of this list?
Isolation – In the mind. Doesn’t actually exist. It’s a perception. We’re all connected. Even the space men. “Press your space face close to mine, love…”
Revenge – Like violence, never ends well. Avoid it.
Osmosis – Pleasant memories of Biology… or science… sharpening pencils at that one large, oblong metal sharpener at the front of the classroom. Sketching detailed drawings of cells… (was it cells?)… very Sylvia Plath-ish. Or, allowing those ideas to filter down… propaganda? Mystification. Being told what’s right.
Crusade – Remember that Sting song?
Tyrant – There’s a few of those around. Even today.
Domination – By whom?
Indifference – 42 is a lot of words.
Miasma – I love this word. If you think miasma is an old theory… observe the faces of people on the sidewalk when the weather shifts.
Pressgang – Government, oppression, military — “I’d rather be high…” “I’d rather be dead, or out of my head, than training my guns… on these men in the sand…”
Displaced, Flight, Resettlement – About 10 years ago I found myself in a spot on the other end of the world, and I knew I had a history there. Maybe we spend our entire lives searching for belonging, and that one place that feels like… well, home.
Funereal – At the end…
Glide – “I gazed in defeat, at the stars in the night…” The shift in musical… sound.
Trace – If you look there, very closely, in the whispers of the grass, you’ll find my history.
Balkan – -ization. Let’s split up into warring factions. Emphasize our collective isolation and create some pressgangs to spread some miasma.
Burial – …it’s all about death.
Reverse – osmosis
Manipulate – Intentionally, or not.
Origin – Look in the grass, or to the stars, or speak to the chthonic ones. The truth is there.
Text – In my childhood and early adolescence, and adulthood — really my whole life until a few years ago — a noun. Now, a verb. hopefully, in a few years an archaic verb, no longer used, devoid of meaning.
Traitor – “Oh no. Not me. I never lost control.”
Urban – or rural.
Comeuppance – Apparently a favourite Bowie word. Have a look at this.
Tragic – No, really, it’s not. I mean, it’s pretty bad, but it’s not tragic. Come on!
Nerve – Unusual courage. Or a collection of body parts connected to physical feeling. It takes nerve to be a traitor and stand up in an urban setting to challenge the mystification.
Mystification – Think critically. Understand what’s beneath. Even if that’s exhausting. Go past the propaganda; it’s just that.